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Blair and co target upset

Winning is the only incentive Scotland require as they face the might of New Zealand in Saturday's opening autumn international at Murrayfield, according to captain Mike Blair.

The 29-year-old Edinburgh scrum-half will skipper Scotland for the 14th time in his 65th Test, despite never having started an international under Andy Robinson, who became head coach in the summer of 2009. Scotland have played New Zealand in 27 Tests since 1905 and are yet to beat the All Blacks, but Blair believes his team can make history.

"Every Test match you go into, you go in to win," said Blair, who has made five substitute appearances under Robinson. "It's the same against New Zealand. They are a fantastic side, we're going to have to work really hard at our game to put ourselves into that position, but I don't think there's any more incentive needed."

He added: "We believe as a squad that if we can match the All Blacks' skill and intensity, that, with the Murrayfield crowd behind us, it can put us into a position where we can win a Test match against New Zealand."

Robinson led Scotland to victory over Australia for the first time in 27 years 12 months ago, while his side are unbeaten in the last four Tests - a draw with England and victory over Ireland in the RBS 6 Nations, plus a first southern hemisphere series success, a 2-0 win over Argentina in June.

Blair's inclusion was as one of five changes to the starting XV from the series-clinching win over the Pumas on June 19 and the captain hopes Scotland can carry the momentum from their strong run into Saturday's encounter.

"As a squad we believe in our talent and ability," he added. "The belief comes from a lot of different things - how you're training, how games have gone, form going into the Test matches - we've just got to put all of those things together on Saturday."

Rory Lawson, who played in the series win in Argentina, was on Tuesday named on the bench as Blair's understudy, but 24 hours on the Gloucester number nine was forced to withdraw with a hand injury suffered playing for his club.

Uncapped Edinburgh number nine Greig Laidlaw, nephew of former Scotland and British and Irish Lions scrum-half Roy Laidlaw, has been called up to the replacements' bench.

With Glasgow Warriors scrum-half Chris Cusiter out injured, Scotland have a wealth of options at number nine and Blair said: "We've had a couple of injuries at scrum-half, but I've been really confident with how I've been playing. I'm just delighted to get this opportunity now to hopefully show what I can do in the Scotland number nine shirt again and leading the guys out at Murrayfield."


From Belfast Telegraph